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The old adage of a little makes a big difference rings truer in some instances than others. And never a truer case than in this renovation of a kitchen/dining area (the kitchen cabinets remained but everything else was up for grabs). I’d add, that the ensuite, laundry, powder room and master bedroom had a full re-work too and without taking anything away from the net result (you’ll love the ensuite transformation), I wanted to focus on the kitchen for if it was a culinary dish it would most definitely be the piece de resistance. For clarity, the figures mentioned below refer to the kitchen and associated works in isolation.

While added space was a prerequisite, light was a necessity too.

When we talk about adding space, I speculate that few would consider a scope of works with less than 15-20 square meters (sqm). If the Olympic committee pondered introducing non-sporting events in the Games and settled on an event for the least square meterage added in a structural renovation, then aside from the entire committee being fired for completely losing their marbles, hands down this project would be proudly representing Australia with a podium finish clearly in sight! Wait for it….a smidge over 4sqm!

“Mathematically, they’ve managed to take 2 + 2 and arrive at 5”.

Now, before you jump back to my previous blog ‘How Much per sqm Please?!’, this one safely sits in a box of its own; entirely making the premise of sqm ballparks null-and-void in renovating terms. For surely the Guinness Book of Records would be knocking on the door if equations alone took the place of judges, pitching this renovation at around $32,500 per sqm – gold!

What makes it truly special was the client’s idea (dare I say it, genius, or tantamount to highly creative, idea) to rake part of the ceiling where the existing roofline intersected the second storey juncture, in a bold move to utilise the existing structure and change the entire dynamic of the space below.

Not only did the floor plan gain 4sqm, the ceiling ‘space’ in the same area jumped nearly 13sqm. It’s the equivalent of doing an attic conversion, without the attic!

Back to the high-value land-grab and what they gained in extra floor area. As is common-place in many renovations, stacker doors (terrific job by the guys and girls at SV Glass) provided the opportunity to increase light dramatically while creating a new dining area, allowing the old dingy and cramped dining space to be converted into a walk-in pantry. Mathematically, they’ve managed to take 2 + 2 and arrive at 5.

Where what you can’t see makes what you can see possible then here, the detail is fundamentally hidden. To maximise the extent to which the existing floor could be increased (simply to the edge of the existing eaves-line ie. 700mm) three steel columns picked up a narrow overhead beam enabling the door height to remain consistent and the structure of the roof to be notched into the beam, with little alterations in the roof space.

 “Simple ideas can function brilliantly”.

At ground level, the sills were recessed into the concrete with only 1mm tolerance, to marry up with new tiles and a flush exit. The Kerlite tiles are 1000mm x 1000mm and only 3.5mm thick (thin!), laid directly onto the existing floor tiles, so, little room for error. For those that haven’t seen these tiles before, they’re pretty cool! While not a ‘cheap’ option per se, they have a distinct advantage of being able to be laid directly onto existing tiles and due to their ‘thinness’, doors don’t need trimming and levels are only slightly affected. From a technical perspective, they are environmentally-friendly, being fired in non-Co2 generating kilns, ceramic, perfectly flat and easy to work with. Check them out here.

The raked ceiling finishes snugly above the door heads and propels the newly invited light upwards, creating a feeling of space far greater than the area itself permits.

What appeals significantly about this renovation is that the kitchen cabinets and benchtops, usually king of the domain, remained untouched while the entire focus was on generating light and reinventing the space around them. It’s often easy to overlook transforming ideas or indeed not see them in the first place.

As mentioned, while playing ‘second fiddle’ to the kitchen, I couldn’t end without further mention of the ensuite transformation. It’s a renovation equivalent of Hans Christian Andersen’s Ugly Duckling!

The original ensuite was, in fairness, the other half of the ‘walk-in-robe/ensuite’ combo, It sat fairly uncomfortably off the WIR in a dated and cramped fashion and while it provided all the amenities required of it, there was little room to navigate between the shower, vanity and WC without risk of potential injury.

The plan involved removing a doorway and part of the wall to open up the entire area and relocate the robe space to the master bedroom, which was more than accommodating and welcomed it without fuss.

Removal of the existing windows and concrete slab, enabled a remodelling exercise most cosmetic beauty salons would be proud of. Bigger windows, new plumbing, drop-ceiling, bench seating and floor-to-ceiling tiling have assisted in making this much more than a make-over and most definitely a younger model.

Both the works in the kitchen and the ensuite, show that creativity in design comes from many places and isn’t the sole domain of an architect, designer or builder. Simple ideas can function brilliantly, spaces can be transformed without great expense and kitchen renovations don’t always involve new kitchens!

By The Barefoot Renovator

If you hear the words ‘It’ll be alright mate’ from your builder, head for the door...

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By The Barefoot Renovator

They say that success is 50% luck. So, by all accounts I was lucky the day I bumped into the owners of this Cottesloe home in a local coffee shop who, a few months later, became clients and one of Barefoot’s first projects.

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By The Barefoot Renovator

I say this, and highlight the additional costs involved in the renovating/buy-and-sell process, only to clarify the overall profits that may be possible might be less than anticipated and for the first-time ‘flippers’ to be fully aware of the true costs which are often conveniently left out of the media.

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By The Barefoot Renovator

Undoubtedly the most common question asked and yet the most tenuous to provide a satisfactory reply. Can I answer this without the use of the “How long’s a piece of string” line….? Nope!

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By The Barefoot Renovator

I looked up the Cambridge English Dictionary definition for ‘penchant’. While I knew the general meaning and how to contextualise it, I read that it’s “a liking for, an enjoyment of, or a habit of doing something, especially something that other people might not like.”

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It’s difficult to write this without a) employing a litany of clichés, and b) keeping it to one side of A4; nonetheless I shall try!

Barefoot has come into existence following nearly eight years in the residential building industry after establishing Castleprime Construction in 2008 along with a business partner. Subsequently, while Castleprime continues as a trading entity, the partners decided they wanted to pursue some individual projects and for my part, Barefoot Renovations was born.

Having started out with Castleprime in renovations and additions, we quickly fell into the bespoke, architect-designed, new build sector.

While the upper-end projects provided a unique set of challenges and rewards, there came with it a fair amount of contractual bureaucracy, immense paper trails and constant realignment of client expectations.

A number of things emerged as a result, which has driven the ethos of Barefoot.

  1. While new builds are still on the agenda, the ‘fun’ and vast improvements that can be made through renovations and additions provided a greater impetus for our focus. It was going back to our roots and felt like we could add significant value to our clients, both in the design stage and also through our more personal management style throughout the project. We become part of our client’s lives for a short period of time and want to enjoy a coffee and beer along the way!
  2. We wanted to make the design and build more enjoyable and interactive; ultimately we wanted to take the clients on a journey as part of the team and provide an overall ‘experience’ rather than simply a process. It’s about being involved from the outset and covering all aspects of the design and build process, both internally and externally. That said, we are still happy to work with clients who have their own plans and can offer input in the design or budget if required.
  3. The traditional building company model was one that we felt needed a shake-up. Not so much to provide a more price-competitive structure, but to bring together select individuals to make up a versatile and flexible team, which we feel can benefit our clients more efficiently. To this extent, we have brought together a group of individuals, each with their own successful businesses, to co-operate under the Barefoot banner. This structure gives us a unique opportunity to have some of the best in their field working together with a single client-focussed goal on a project-by-project basis.

Simply put, it’s our culture that differentiates us. Everyone on the team has the same focus and desire to make the experience enjoyable and professional.

It’s about how we want to do business. We established Barefoot with the goal of creating great spaces and taking our clients on a journey along the way.

The day we stop doing this is the day we shut the doors and look for an alternative career!

Undoubtedly the most common question asked and yet the most tenuous to provide a satisfactory reply. Can I answer this without the use of the “How long’s a piece of string” line....? Nope!

This by no means is supposed to be a flippant reply and everyone who’s asked me the question always follows it up with a second questions along the lines of, “Come-on, just roughly, what do you reckon?”

So before I give a level of reasoning from which you can deduce your own square meterage, let me put some context around the question. Firstly, m2 rates only really came about in relation to new homes, where it’s far easier to be definitive with the ‘construction & content’ of the building. Also, for the average floor area whether single or double-storey, it’s more reliable to offer a comparison between designs and builders. But, when it comes to renovations, the system simply doesn’t work.

The type of work involved in a renovation is so different from project to project that any comparison is nigh-on impossible.

Renovations can be both structural and non-structural. Maybe we can differentiate between renovations and additions….but then again many renovations still have structural components.

As an example, a recent internal non-structural renovation of a bathroom, laundry and ensuite, with simple detailing and economical fixtures and fitting totalling 15m2, would equate to $2,500 per m2 whereas an extension to an existing house with structural works (albeit a pretty high spec) totalling 120m2 equated to $5,416 per m2.

Introducing the ever-versatile ‘Car Analogy’!

Assume for a moment we’ve established the requirement for a three-door, hatchback with leather interior and a sporty engine. That narrows the field down considerably. So, upon entering a car dealer’s showroom, let’s pose the question “How much for a three-door, hatchback with leather interior and a sporty engine?”

I’d be surprised if an answer would be given, but for the odd salesman trying their luck, I would hazard a guess of somewhere between $25,000 and $125,000…plus!

In general I’d imagine most people would agree it’s hard to answer without first conquering a tranche of questions, from which the salesperson can more accurately direct the customer.

But, without labouring the point too much, let’s consider the design and detailing which differentiates the $25,000 car from its $125,000 counterpart. If we merely focus on a single component, we have a raft of questions to get through….

Alloy wheels? (run with me and assume ‘yes’)

Any specific brand?

What size – diameter & width?

Pitch circle diameter?

Load rating?



How many wheel bolts and what pattern?

What style of bolts?

What style of rim?

How many spokes?

Milled spokes or cut face?

What ‘colour’?


What type of driving are you planning to do?

What type of tyres do you want on them?

Based on answers the wheels alone would easily vary from between $400 and $5,000 a set.

So back to the renovation…and focussing on one component – ‘electrical’…..

What type of light fittings (LED down-lights vary in cost from $35.00 - $125.00 and pendants are anything from $40.00 - $2,000 +)?

Type of GPO’s – slim-line, block mounted, brushed aluminium cover plates, white plastic?

How many and location of each?

Condition of existing wiring – any upgrade of the meter box required?

Any three-phase power required?

What type/model of cooker, hob, air-conditioning, ceiling fans?

Photovoltaic cells?

Data points required – do you need a hub?

Free-to-air TV / Foxtel?


External power and lighting requirements?


I could go on…you get the picture!

OK, so all that said, can we be realistic by stating a m2 rate? Invariably, I’d be very hesitant unless there’s sufficient detail in the plans, specification and following a thorough inspection (including an engineer’s report) of the property and without making allowances for possible unknowns.

However, a couple of years ago I rewrote an article for the Master Builders Association’s website, covering renovation costs to try and bring a better expectation to possible m2 rates. In it I suggested working on between $2,500 and $4,000 per m2 including GST. But even now, I think these figures would be conservative depending on the scope of works and property condition.

Furthermore, I am increasingly trying to re-educate clients and get away from entering into a conversation where m2 rates are banded around.

I’d be more inclined to advise clients to consider the project in its entirety and ensure they get a thorough set of plans and specifications. Working with a company that can provide the design and development of the plans as part of the service will provide a better outcome as they will have a thorough understanding of the project, home and budget.

Plus, always plan for some unknowns when budgeting, it seems to impact well on m2 rates and they have an uncanny knack of making themselves known at the most inconvenient times!



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